Alter Health Services

Digging Deeper With The Healthcare Detective™

The Case of the Nutty Headache

Posted 05.30.2022 in The Case Files

Digging Deeper to Reveal the True Culprit


  • NAME: Gawa
  • AGE: 19
  • GENDER: Female
  • PRIMARY COMPLAINT: Headache, joint pain, fatigue, on and off gut pains.


HISTORY: Gawa moved from Malaysia to the United States 5 years ago. A few months after arriving in the USA she began to develop symptoms that she had never experienced before. She reported that the body aches were gradually getting worse. The gut pains were becoming more frequent, but the headaches were the worst and migraines were now a few times each week.

Gawa has been through a large battery of medical testing and diagnostic imaging of the head and GI. Nothing conclusive was revealed. Stool tests did not reveal parasites or infection. Her GP recommended prescriptions to manage the pain of her migraine headache and GERD.


The past two years of lab tests and doctor notes were studied for clues. Cardiovascular, thyroid, sugar and metabolic blood tests revealed nothing significant.

Hormone profiles were normal. GI images and diagnostics revealed upper GI patches of inflammation, otherwise nothing significant. But this inflammation was a significant clue.


Completing a much more comprehensive health history and consulting directly with Gawa revealed new possibilities as to the root of her symptoms. She had wondered if foods might be involved but could not figure out what food it might be.

It was decided that we would investigate in this new direction and if necessary, fill in some of the gaps of the previous standard medical testing.



A DNA based stool test was ordered to identify any potential GI irritants such as viral, bacterial, parasitic, or fungal overgrowth. We also wanted to look at the health of the GI system and evaluate the level of damage from a functional standpoint, not just anatomical.

An advanced food sensitivity and allergy test was ordered. This included an analysis of the strength of these different types of reactions to 90 different foods as well as some of the limiting and or exacerbating tendencies her body had to these foods.


Like the standard medical stool test, no parasites or other invaders were detected. However, the functional analysis did indicate an infection level of inflammation but NOT an infection level of immune response (SIgA). These clues pointed the finger in the direction of the food intolerances and allergies.

Additionally, high levels of Zonulin were detected indicating an increased intestinal permeability…otherwise known as “leaky gut syndrome”.


A list of the offenders was organized. The greatest of these was gluten and dairy containing foods.

Gawa eliminated these from her diet and was started on a gut healing protocol including specialized probiotics that metabolize (break down) gluten.


In the first 4 weeks of her diet changes and recovery program the improvements came very fast. Joint pain, fatigue and gut pains dropped by 90%. By the end of two months, Gawa reported nearly 100% relief in those three symptoms and she had stopped all GERD medication.

Gawa also reported that her migraine headaches had increased in both intensity and frequency! Now 3-4 times each week. She was grateful for the improvements, but the headaches were becoming debilitating.



Suspicious that Gluten had an accomplice, we dug deeper into the investigation. Sometimes mixed in with the gluten are other proteins lurking in the mix. Sometimes these proteins are in high concentrations in foods often used as a substitute for gluten.

Gawa had changed so many aspects of her eating style but I noticed she was using a great deal of Almond milk and tapioca flour in her attempts to decrease gluten and dairy. If she was reacting to the cross-over proteins in these substances, it may be the smoking gun we were looking for.


The cross-over protein test came back VERY positive, and the culprits were nabbed red handed. Gawa stopped using all almond and tapioca gluten substitutes and her migraine headaches vanished completely in the following few months.

Gawa correctly pointed out, “My headaches were driving me nuts, but I come to find out, nuts were driving my headache!”


January 2022: We followed up with Gawa and she shared some exciting news. She had continued with the gut healing program and was feeling wonderful.

She told us that relatives had sent a care package from her old home in Malaysia. It contained some treats she used to eat before moving to the USA but she knew they contained gluten.

She could not pass up these treats! Gawa was so excited because she was able to eat (ALL) these foods with no bad reactions! More interesting is that she can still not tolerate USA foods containing gluten.

What can we learn from this? All gluten is not created equal and perhaps GMO gluten, like most of the gluten in the USA, may not be the best for anyone to consume.

What else have we learned? Gawa cannot wait for the next care package from home.

Healthier lives. Revealed Together.

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